Tuesday, July 26, 2011

food & friendship

Something I've learned about myself a little late in life is that I like entertaining. I like making friends feel special and surrounding them with thoughtfulness and love whether it be a lil bouquet of flowers next to the bed, a customized drink made by hand, nice linen napkins instead of paper and twinkly lights & candles. Last night was one of those nights with a handful of close girlie's coming over for a little Greek fiesta on the porch.

It's something that I think even surprises my husband a little. Mostly because he doesn't really see how it can be "fun" for me. I guess it looks like work to him and in some ways he's right but it's a work I have passion for. I've been really inspired by my friends who have welcomed me into their homes in recent years, showing me the way and passing me the torch. One of the things I love most about ladies is that they really know how to celebrate one another and create special moments together. With a good sized group of friends there is always a birthday, house warming or a just because it's been too long dinner or brunch that can always be anticipated. I know a lot of the ladies out there will agree that it's fun to have your friends over too!
For me, it starts with by sending (text/facebook/evite) the invitation. For me, I usually just have a concept at this point. A theme, mood, flavor profiles... Once I see who is coming the details start to come together. For some reason I just keep thinking GREEK! So I made the menu Greek salad with homemade dressing, Moussaka & pita. Luckily I think I can fit everyone around my outside table which means candles, a little tiny vase of flowers and a few throw blankets placed on chairs just in case! Since collecting glassware is a hobby of mine and basically my sole purpose for flea marketing, I'll put out different glasses on a tray near the wine so there is no confusion over who's is who's or need for a wine charm. I love giving something quick to pick at while friends arrive and inevitably wait around for the last guest (usually my sister who is rushing over after a long day of styling). Last night it was an herbed brie, crackers, figs and some nuts.

I live in my mind a lot and having friends over for a meal is like a mental math problem that I get to solve in the days leading up to it. Mental lists (and scribbled post its), looking up recipes to tweak as well as timing & prepping it is all part of the fun. Working a 9-5 requires thinking ahead so the night before I prepped all the layers for the moussaka and then all I had to do before the dinner was assemble and throw them in the oven. Next, make the Greek dressing & Salad. A quick freshening up and then set the table & light some candles eh voila! So easy, hopefully so yummy and no stress by the time friends arrive, that way I too get to enjoy the party!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We've got your....

Coyotes, rabbits, horses, peacocks, owls, squirrels, lizards, spiders...what else? Oh, I think that's enough.
One of the treats to living in the canyon is all the beautiful wildlife we see. Just the other night we parked our car and were walking to our door when we heard 2 owls hooting back and forth to each other over head. Owls are one of our favorite animals. They are such a respected and mysterious creature, not only for their stealthiness but they just seem wise, don't they? It sounded like they were discussing a take down and we kept hearing the sounds of a squirrel in our big tree. I believe at one point the owl flew above and got the squirrel but you don't really hear them fly so it's hard to say for sure but an owl feather floated down and landed in my hand eluding to the fact that it had just flown over head. Then there wasn't another peep out of the squirrel.

A moment later, a pack of coyotes were seen in the abandoned house across the street. It was a little startling and brought out a second of fear in me just to see them turffin around, obviously looking for their next meal. When they turned and made their way onto the ridge above, leaving one separated from the pack that we kept seeing for the next 15 minutes roaming around our 'hood' trying to find his way back to his crew.

Then yesterday, we went for an evening stroll to the Hollywood sign trail and came across 3 peacocks. One was your typical gorgeous looking 'cock, then there was a white one with black spots and a mostly grey one. They too were out on an evening stroll.

Spiders are a daily annoyance at this point both in the house and just outside our door waiting for my tall husband to walk through them.

Lizards out sunning can be found on every walk and frogs are heard but not seen much, YET. Chadd the frog hunter will be sure to sniff them out soon.

It's like our own little zoo experience and as avid nature & animal lovers we couldn't be pleased to have such neighbors.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happiness breeds happiness...

....is it considered a 'rant' if it's a happy one?

I love my life. There, I said it. We all have a choice everyday. We can wake up and run through the lists of what we need, must and should do, letting those tasks form our day. We do our best to accessorize with the wants but too often those are the items we move down to the bottom of our list or erase all together. I get it and I've done it. I've lived a life of wants in pencil and needs in permanent ink but it's wrong and whoever says balance is bullshit has probably already fallen over because if you must anything, it's this, you MUST enjoy your life. It is the only one you were given and it's your choice to live it in a way that brings you the most joy possible while causing the least amount of harm to others and the planet.
If you would like to be happy then be happy. Start now with a smile. Look into the closest mirror you can find and give yourself a flirty wink. c'mon, do it. You are great and the people in your life are amazing or else you wouldn't have put them in there. Let them know how great they are and how happy you are to have them in your life.
I'll start: Mom, you moved all the way to LA to be with us and when we can just meet up for lunch, flea marketing or to watch TV (which we don't do enough) I really love it and I love that I always have a theater buddy.
Sister, you are the zip lock to my tranwich; you keep me fresh. I love watching you grow and make choices that make you happy. I am your cheerleader fo' life. I adore the dude you picked and I see so many happy times ahead with him in our crazy family and thank god that you picked someone who can keep up with you because it's a lot of work.
Then add to that the best dad, step-mom, bros and step sis a girl could have. Such outside of the box thinkers and I just feel GOOD being around them. Good to the core of me. And they offer so much support and positivity which they learned from the leader of the tribe who always has our backs.
You don't really get In Laws like mine too often. Not only are they amazing individuals but they've merged nearly seamlessly with my own family to create this super fam that's unreal. In 7 years we've had more holidays, themed parties and limbo contest than you can imagine. We've camped, redecorated and crafted until our fingers were glued together and we don't ever argue, honestly we should be studied. Then there's the LA posse which is full of good people who take you as you are and are always, ALWAYS ready to party, play games and make the fun happen. I LOVE having a crew.
I've become friends with some pretty amazing women who have become confidants to me ~ honorable mention to my Jamie who's off exploring the world and making me miss her desperately. I've never had a kinder or more thoughtful and understanding friend that you.
The dance crew my man hangs with is the most inspiring lot and the things his career has allowed me to witness is unreal. Which brings me to him, the most stunning part of my life. He is so kind, honest and supportive. I've learned so much from him and am honored to be the lady of his life. No matter where life takes us the time we have together has been the best of my entire life and I look forward to our forever together. If you let it, marriage can be a place that you grow, learn, laugh and gather countless amounts of strength from.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Adventures in Beijing

Beijing, a city of run down back alley streets hidden by towering impersonal buildings. The allure of old China is around but at times hard to see, hidden by all the high-rise banks and apartments.

Staying in the financial district at the Ritz we found ourselves in a very Western setting. A little hand gesturing and phrase simplifying was necessary to communicate with the staff but it was easy to forget we were in fact in Beijing.

Looking out of the window when we awoke on our first morning, the sky was a thick sheet of clouds alluding to a cool marine-layer like temperature. It wasn't until we left the hotel that we realized the lie the sky was telling. It was in the 90's and humid like downtown NYC on the hottest of days. I made my way alone in a cab to the Forbidden City. 19 RMB ($3) later I was dropped off across the street. Kindly the cabbie gave a nod & point in the direction of an under street walk way that I would later find common all around Beijing. I walked through 2 large courtyards before coming to the entrance for the Forbidden City where I decided to take a left and check out the park next to it for 50 cents and save the tour for when Chadd was with me later in the week. It was easy to see that I was among a very small handful of non-asians. It was mostly all local families, enjoying a little sight seeing on their Sunday outing.

Having traveled through Italy and London on my own I was use to being by myself in a foreign place. I always try to integrate with the residents, smile, have quick chats, enjoy what the locals are enjoying and get a real feel for the place but so much of that feeling comes from feeling welcomed and not like you were intruding which is how the lack of smiles back and or returned gesture of kindness was leaving me to feel. Oh well, so I'm not going to be exchanging emails or making new best friends, I could still have my own fun so I popped in my earphones and let Adele keep me company as I wandered the gorgeous park. There were families in boats, picnicking and strolling in the heat which was making the AC back in my room really tempting.

I hopped in a cab and cruised back just in time to meet up with Chadd now back from his quick rehearsal. Shopping to the silk market we go, where there is everything imaginable and all up for negation. The least we could do was help out the local economy and that we did. Shoes, purses, a new suit, sunglasses. We did it up. By the time we finished haggling, weaving our big bags through little aisles and freeing Chadd from all of the grabby & pinchy sales girls at the market we were exhausted.

A few days later, I met up with a friend of a friend in the Houhai. A lake surrounded by shops, restaurants and back alleys leading to what looked to be homes that time had all but forgotten. These alleys and doors were some of my favorite parts on Beijing because what happens beyond them is the true story of Beijing, the one I am not privet too and the one I most want to see.

My new friend and I sat outside next to the water and shared a meal of lotus flower, cucumbers and shrimp while I gently quizzed her about what it is to live there.

98% of people live in furnished apartments: well that explains what's up with all of the big buildings. You call the sky "constipated" because it needs to rain: again, that explains why I have get to catch a glimpse of it and couldn't pick its shade of blue out of a line up.

I kept thinking during our meal, if I hadn't come on this trip what would I be doing right now? Ok, so the obvious answer would be sleeping but beyond that, there is so much else that I wouldn't be experiencing and I felt so thankful that I was in Beijing.

Take a moment to think about all the different experiences people are having all around the world right now. There are so many people taking that vacation that they've been saving up for years to take RIGHT NOW. They are finally seeing the thing they've read & researched about and until now only saw on the internet and in their day dreams like the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno in Florence or the vibrant fish below the ocean. Zip lining through the Costa Rican rain forest or smelling spices in the markets of Morocco or listening to frogs in the Amazon. There are an infinite amount of adventures being had and at that moment by the lake I was singing in that chorus of adventurers and feeling the joy of life being lived.

My next adventure came a few days later when Chadd and I toured the Forbidden City. We hadn't thought about using a guide until we were approached outside of the City and realized that it would be a great way to get the most out of the mere hour and a half we had before Chadd had to be back and for the equivalent of $15 how could we pass it up. If we hadn't we would have never about the people who actually lived within its walls. Over 3,000 young concubines that would spend most of their lives never leaving it. You see, once you came to the Forbidden City, you didn't leave. Imagine the gossip and jealousy that took place there with over THREE THOUSAND WOMEN vying for the same mans affection?! And if you were a man working within its walls, well you were castrated!

When we walked outside its walls we noticed a gorgeous building way up on the hill across the street and hiked up to see it. The view from up there was astonishing and we were able to see the entire Forbidden city from there. It felt magical being in the "clouds" and seeing the 360 degrees surrounding us. It was the Beijing I was hoping to see.

Lama & Confucian temple & the Great Wall to come....

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Making of a manly burger, Umami style

In LA Umami Burger has changed the landscape of the burger with their savory blend of quality meat, gourmet toppings and soft buttery buns. Haute couture of the basic burger, upgraded to satiate the most mature taste buds.

The wiki definition of Umami /uːˈmɑːmi/, popularly referred to as savoriness, is one of the five basic tastes together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami is a loanword from the Japanese umami (うま味?) meaning "pleasant savory taste".

So with that in mind we've started a tradition of making our own Umami burgers at home. So far we've delighted in a Hawaiian burger, Truffle burger, California burger and our favorite, the Manly consisting of homemade cheese sauce and crispy panchetta/onion toppings. It is SO good!

Here how to do it:

First I started with meat from Trader Joe's because I like there grass fed blend (fat is 85/15% blend). You can buy them already in patty form. I like to salt & pepper them before throwing on BBQ.

Get a pan heating with olive oil & butter to which you add chopped red onions. The goal is to caramelize them so have the heat on medium and keep them moving around the pan. After about 5 minutes add chopped panchetta.

In a saucepan make a rue (equal amounts of melted butter & flour). Whisk them together until the color deepens to a golden brown making sure that you don't burn it, whisk whisk whisk! Then add to that some 1/2 & 1/2 or milk, about a quarter of a cup at a time while also adding grated cheddar. The cheese we used was a sharp cheddar that I actually didn't like the flavor of on its own but it lended itself amazingly to a cheese sauce. Keep stirring those together till you get your desired amount, adding more of each as you see needed. You'll want a little less than a quarter of a cup for each burger.

When the burgers are almost finished throw your BUTTERED buns on the grill to infuse more of the BBQ flavor into the burger and warm them up.

This burger is so full of flavor that the only thing I added was some wasabi mayo on the bottom bun then put the burger on, then a heaping spoonfull of the now crispy panchetta/onion mixture then top it with the cheese sauce then top bun and you're in business!

Serve with crudite or salad!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Trio of bruschetta

**Food shots clearly don't work when taken with hipstamatic but by the time I'd realized that my photo ops were devoured...

Yesterday after work we took a moment to chill on our porch for a snack of bruschettas. We both love Italian food and have amazing memories associated with nibbly meals like this one.

For my bruschetta Trio:

I cut up a beautiful cheesy foccacia that I bought from traders a few days ago and put in on a baking sheet with olive oil drizzled on top. I also broiled 4 slices of prosciutto for some protein and yummy smokey salty flavor.
While that broiled I quickly sauteed some cauliflower in olive oil & butter for about 5 minutes which was just long enough to soften and add that nutty flavor cauliflower gets when almost burnt. Then I tossed it in the food processor with salt, pep and mascarpone. When it was well blended but not fully creamy I smeared it on the grilled bread, topped with a bit of the crispy prosciutto and some grated parm.

I also sauteed some chopped brown button mushrooms in a pan with olive oil, butter, Italian seasoning, salt & pep till they were very golden and plated them on the bread with a bit of the prosciutto and a few sprinkles of basil.

Finally, I quickly mixed together chopped tomatos & fresh mozzarella balls with basil, olive oil, balsamic, salt & pep.

If it had been later in the day a glass of wine would have been lovely to have with this but we sipped espresso instead to get an energy cheat for the projects we had to do like string lights on the balcony! pics soon of that:)

Thursday, May 19, 2011


After last nights blog on our epic decorating weekend I was asked for pictures so here they are but bear in mind these are crappy iPhone pics.

The kitchen trim we painted grey, the cookbook is Sunburst & it's from the hippy commune I was born on (fun fact: we then lived in a teepee for my first 6 months of life):

Having a fireplace was a huge selling point but the design was such an eyesore. It's now one of my favorite decorative points of the house. The picture of Christopher Lloyd was bought at an Obama art fundraiser:

The entry piece. The mirror was a donation from MIL that use to be in our old living room, the shelf was from our old bedroom and the milk glass is vintage and bought for our wedding as center piece and candy vases:

My book nook. The art on the wall I made using a butterfly stencil from Martha Stewarts website and I cut them out of decor & travel magazine covers & framed them into 2 shadow boxes:

Sneaky last min Ikea lounge purchase. The side table I bought off craigers randomly from Veronica who was on the Real World. To compliment the 'book nook, C nicknamed this the laptop lounge:

My old lady hutch filled with flea market finds was found on craigslist a few years ago and I painted it with MIL's help. Pic of our cat Charli was an Xmas gift from MIL:

And this concludes a mini tour of our new little tree house that has brought us so much joy & light.

This weekend is probably the final decor day in which we will finish the outside of the front door, hanging guest room pics, curtains, getting herbs planted etc.